Quality of life
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2014 - 12:00am

Does our government really care about the quality of life of every Filipino? With the bad traffic, pollution, brownouts, expensive water and electricity rates not to mention tax increases and poor services offered – we’re doomed!

Quality of life (or QOL) is defined as the general well-being of individuals and societies. It covers various fields: international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Standard indicators used to measure the quality of life are: employment, environment, health, education, recreation time and social being.

The most commonly used international measure of development is the Human Development Index (HDI). This measure is a combination of life expectancy, education, and standard of living. The HDI is used by the United Nations Development Program in their Human Development Report. The UN also ranks countries by happiness which is said to be the ultimate outcome of a high quality of life.

How happy are the Filipinos? Last year according to a study of 142 countries comprising 96% of the world’s population conducted by the London-based Legatum Institute Prosperity Index, Norway is the happiest country in the world, the United States ranked 12th and the Philippines 67th. The study was based on 89 indicators grouped into eight categories – economy, entrepreneurship and opportunity, governance, education, health, safety and security, personal freedom and social capital.

It is every government’s ultimate goal to improve the lives and well-being of every citizen. Sad to say, this is not what is happening to us. We continue to live a miserable life. Our government, our environment and the present demands of our society makes us very unhappy.

The survey conducted by research firm Pulse Asia last December 2013 showed that nearly five in ten Filipinos do not see any improvement in their quality of life. Of the 1,200 adult respondents, 45 percent said their personal circumstances will be the same in 2014 while 37 percent expressed optimism and 19 percent thought it will be worse than the previous year.

Despite what the government has been ranting about a booming economy, more Filipinos remain vulnerable to poverty. Quality of life remains the same as in the past years. In its 2013 Human Development Index, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said the Philippines ranked 114th out of 187 countries with an index of 0.654. By the way, in 2011, the Philippines already ranked 114th with an HDI of 0.651. Not much improvement at all.

The UNDP said 18.4 percent of the country’s population lived below the poverty line of $1.25 per day between 2002-2011. Nine percent of the population is considered vulnerable to poverty while 5.7 percent is living in severe poverty.

At the end of 2012, the Philippine population stood at 96.5 million. Recent count has reached 100 million. By 2030 our population may balloon to 126.3 million. Sanamagan!

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The point is – life is harsh in this country. Our people may be a naturally happy race but deep within our hearts is sadness. If only we could have a better life in our own land. What life do we want to have? Nothing really out of the ordinary, I guess. We just want a life that is pleasant and one that gives us dignity and pride.

Is it too much to ask the government to improve public services? We pay exorbitant taxes (personal tax and business tax) to help the government provide efficient service to the citizens of this country. But until now, no significant changes have been made to improve our quality of life. No one in government is courageous enough to stop corruption. Yes, P-Noy may be on the right track in curtailing corruption but his way of doing it has been questioned several times. If only our people can speak up – things would really change.

What makes us unhappy? Traffic, crime, pollution, expensive commodities to meet our basic needs, hospitals that are dirty and lack doctors and facilities, not enough classrooms and untrained public school teachers, public markets with no ventilation and poor sanitation, and streets with no lights at night making them dangerous much more so because no policeman is on sight. These are but some of the many disheartening conditions we have to face every day as we toil to live a better life. Clearly, we have been shortchanged by the government. 

Our government officials who belong to all the three branches seem to have become the ‘enemies of the state.’ They have actually replaced our colonizers and are now exploiting our land. They are the encomienderos of today. As in the people of the past, they own vast lands, are very wealthy (but most with unexplained wealth) and are very influential in this society. The masa are treated like Indios. Nothing has changed. Nothing!

If our leaders were ever sincere in improving our lives and the conditions of our environment, then, our country today would have been the best in Asia. We were already there in the 1950s going on that upward climb but all of a sudden we crashed. And the rest of our neighboring countries beat us to the finish line while our very own government allowed the termites to take over our land.

It is said that during the colonization, we were governed with rules and manipulations. We were victims of slavery, maltreatment, discrimination, militarization and injustice. Force labor was enforced and human rights were denied. We suffered and lost our freedom.

Our heroes died to help us regain that freedom. But as the years go by, the question lingers on. Are we really free? This social contract that P-Noy has with the Filipino people whom he calls his ‘bosses’ seem to have been drawn on water. No traces of what it has actually done to answer the needs of the lowly citizens of this country. The contract contains the same old baloney – promises that are meant to be broken! No amount of rhetoric can alter the reality that we are still a nation caught in the shackles of poverty and injustice.

Our leaders should learn from our past mistakes. F. Sionil Jose in his article Romancing Colonialism and the Colonized Mind said, “For us who are colonized, it is important that we are freed from it, to use it not to glorify the colonizer, but to remember he was the enemy and could still be – and that from history, we should be able to extract those aspects of it which could bind us, which could lead us to freedom and justice.” He added, “The colonizers laid down the structures of oppression, the institutions of coercion which exists to this very day, for colonialism dies hard – it persists in actual forces of domination, of control, and most of all, its insidious virus is in the mind, not of the colonizer and his remaining acolytes, but in the feelings of inferiority, of helplessness and apathy in the colonized. And this is perhaps the most enduring and formidable obstacle in the building of a nation – the colonized mind.

Such is the state of mind of our leaders. If this will not change, we will remain as indios, obreros and sacadas in our own land!


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